Moving from a long, toolsy athlete in Nolan Jones to yet another long, toolsy prospect, Reggie Lawson instead offers upside as a fast riser on the mound. Lawson impressed over the 2015 summer circuit with his fastball and the ease at which he can deliver his pitches with premium velocity. Presently ranked 26th on Baseball America's top 100 and 37th on MLB Pipeline's top 50, Lawson did not factor into Baseball America's initial first round mock draft. While Lawson might best fit presently in the Dodgers' plans in the supplemental first round, the tools are loud enough that a big spring could vault him into consideration at the 20th pick.
Lawson's top attribute is not necessarily his present stuff, but the fluidity and athleticism that allow him to pitch with an ease of effort. Lawson is tall and long at 6'4 and plenty of room to pack on additional weight without a loss in athleticism. He has a quick arm and his delivery appears effortless. Lawson can lose his release point and at times will drop his arm slot, but both are highly correctable given his age and talent.
Lawson's fastball presently sits in the low 90s, though he's flashed plus in shorter looks. The pitch jumps on batters with late life and can be tough to pick up from his near-the-ear, three-quarters arm slot. Lawson hasn't shown much command of his breaking ball, which has a knuckle curve shape but can get loose and slurvy. Again, given his athleticism and age, this isn't of significant concern, and it wouldn't surprise me if his drafting team completely scrapped the pitch to work on a more pure slider or curve.
In a sense, that is the beauty of drafting a player like Lawson. If you have faith in your development staff, he's one of the better molds of clay in this class. He checks off all the upside boxes: long and lean frame, plus athleticism, rapid development at a young age, already solid present fastball. Lawson is a player you can dream on, but the high ceiling comes at a trade-off of no clear floor.
Given the amount of development Lawson still requires, it is still difficult to project his ultimate upside. The easiest project to make right now is that of an innings eating number three starter with the ability to pitch off his fastball heavily that may not require better than average secondaries. However, if he can refine his breaking ball and push his velocity more consistently to the mid 90's, you could see a solid number two pitcher in time.
Given the strength of the Dodgers' farm system, they can afford to wait on Lawson to transform his raw tools into productive skills for the rotation. The Dodgers have invested heavily into their development team and appear to be an ideal landing point for a talent like Lawson in need of nurturing. Additionally, the bar is rather high for Dodgers prospects to reach the majors, so placing a premium on ceiling while the system is so deep would be an ideal draft strategy. Should the Dodgers land a player like Lawson in the supplemental round, he could easily prove to be a steal down the road, but it will come with considerable work by both the player and the organization.
Up next: Matt Krook